Meagan Reads YA Horror: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

As part of my ongoing (and almost done!) reading challenge, I chose this young adult horror novel about a protagonist named Theseus Cassio (who prefers to go by Cas) for the category “a book you heard about because of this challenge.”

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Audiobook)

Following in his father’s footsteps, Cas has become a ghost hunter with a plan for revenge. He plans to kill the thing that killed his father. Upon arriving in Thunder Bay, Ontario, everything about this hunt is different from the ghosts he’s hunted in the past. Unexpectedly gaining a circle of friends, and a guilty conscience for classmates lost during his hunt, Cas takes on the most powerful specter he’s ever encountered.

The story was reminiscent of early Supernatural seasons, so of course it held my attention. The plot moved at a fast pace that never left me bored and had the right amount of rise and fall. What I appreciated most was that the story didn’t go longer than it had to and finished in a good place. The twists were surprising and left me wanting to continue each time a new one came into play.

While the story entertained me enough, the characters for the most part were annoying. Their personalities and descriptions relied heavily on stereotypes that sounded like an adult who has no idea what teenagers are actually like. Blake tried to give a couple of characters layers beyond their surface personalities, but the writing didn’t go deep enough to make them stand out as realistic people.

The best parts of this book were the supernatural elements and horror story, which made the audio book worth listening to. However, the narrator really seemed to have a hard time grasping what a teenage girl sounds like, and only seemed to have one mode for the boys: smarmy asshole.

Perhaps the narration is part of the problem I had with characterization in this book, but I think that had more to do with Blake’s writing and the narrator didn’t help. Overall, not a terrible book, but I don’t need to continue the series.

Has anyone else read Kendare Blake novels? Which would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Meagan Reads Classic Mystery: The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes, Published 2005 by Chicago Review Press (Image from Goodreads)

It’s been a while since I gave my insights to a book I’ve read. I’d like to get back into the habit with this classic mystery I just finished reading called The Lodger by Mari Belloc Lowndes, originally published in 1913.

The story takes place in London, where a series of Jack the Ripper style murders are occurring, and simultaneously, the Buntings, down on their luck, get an eccentric gentleman looking for lodgings to rent their space. Their new lodger, Mr. Sleuth, rents out both rooms they have available for twice as much as they’re worth to ensure he has the lodgings all to himself and doesn’t have to share the house with anyone but the proprietors. He also carries a strange leather case and only ever leaves the house past midnight, which are two characteristics of The Avenger, the serial killer murdering women in London. What a crazy random happenstance.

It’s clear from the get-go that the Buntings’ new lodger Mr. Sleuth is in fact The Avenger. So what exactly is the mystery in this mystery novel? I suppose you could say it’s the inner workings of the human brain and what people who have been going hungry for a long time will do to keep their only source of income from fleeing or getting arrested.

Mrs. Bunting figures out pretty early on that Mr. Sleuth is in fact The Avenger. Now, she never gets solid proof, never catches him in the act, never sees blood on his hands, but like the audience reading the story, she’s not blind and understands what all signs point to. She then spends the entirety of the book giving into fits of hysteria, holding onto her secret, even keeping it from her husband (who’s as thick as they come, because he doesn’t notice Mr. Sleuth is the murderer until literally the last 10 percent of the book).

The book really is mostly about Mrs. Bunting’s guilty conscience as she suspects Mr. Sleuth’s crimes. She goes about trying to learn the truth without revealing how much she suspects. She’s torn between the money he brings to her household and what’s right, all the while keeping up a friendship with a police officer who’s working the case of The Avenger.

Overall, I enjoyed the story up until the end, because although the reader knows the whole time Mr. Sleuth is the murderer, the suspense builds and builds and builds, waiting for the snap at the end. Will the Buntings finally turn him in? Will he kill them? No, neither of these things happen. In fact — spoilers ahead! — at the point in the book where he realizes he’s been found out, he assumes Mrs. Bunting has betrayed him and he runs away from Madame Tussaud’s, where they are spending the day with Mr. Bunting’s daughter Daisy for her birthday, but not before threatening her with a most terrifying and gruesome death.

Days pass and they never hear from him again, and The Avenger is never caught. That’s it. That’s the ending. It was like an orchestra building up to an absolute cacophony of crescendo and then the sound gets sucked out of the room and the musicians walk off stage.

Truth be told, I didn’t feel an affinity for Mrs. Bunting. I never felt sorry for her or related. There wasn’t actually anything there to root for. She was always cross with her husband, portrayed as the nagging wife trope, and she was such a bitch to Daisy. It always felt like she resented Daisy, like somehow it was the girl’s fault that her husband had had a previous marriage and a child from that marriage. I never felt for her as the protagonist, and Mr. Bunting was just short of being a downright idiot. The characters were rather flat, so I certainly didn’t stay for them.

If you’re looking for an easy read to take on the train or to the beach, I’d say this is a solid choice. It doesn’t require much thought and it’s entertaining enough to keep your attention for long periods of time. Just don’t expect to feel satisfied by the ending.

Have any of you read classic mystery novels? What are your favorites? Let me know your recommendations in the comments!

Weft & Weave

The following is a poem I wrote for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge back in February. Here’s a link to the original page and image that inspired this work:

This is just a single piece. A fragment of imagination as a childish
version remembers it. Patchwork puzzle piece across America where all
highways and blue skies with clouds look suspiciously the same.

Put it together with its brothers and sisters in a grid system of soft
cotton squares, up and down, side to side, neverending lines flowing
into each other can’t tell where one piece starts and the other part ends.

Brown and tan strips of land that is your land. Black asphalt roads from
tattered flaps of fabric mimicking broken infrastructure whose rough edges
can be seen as far as the eye can see but whose dangerous potholes hide in its
inky nature.Yellow threads pushed to the side just barely register as vague
fields of corn and wheat we hardly notice under our feet.

America the beautiful, so wide and spanning the color spectrum
but we only see a piece.

Self-Defense —

Re-posted from The Drabble. It’s short but packs a punch.

By Bevan Michael Haynes I was just sitting on the bench. I was minding my own business. It’s not my fault that … look, when other people make decisions, are you responsible for what they’ve decided to do? No. You’re only responsible for yourself. For your own reaction. That’s what my therapist keeps reminding me. […]

via Self-Defense —

Wanderlust: Georgia

I went to Georgia during my birthday weekend back in college, junior year if I remember correctly. I was attending an open-call audition and Caitlin, Char’Lee, Lida and I packed into the Volkswagen for a chilly adventure. (Side note: traveling during my birthday always brings a weather surprise for me, as January in Florida is still hot as hell).

As with all proper road trips, we stocked up on snacks and tunes, ready to roll down the highway with classic rock and Pringles. Of course, keeping up the hype for over four hours is difficult, so after a while it became a napping party with Char’Lee behind the wheel, a true team player staying awake.

As we cruised the interstate though, nearing Atlanta but still on the outskirts, Columbus (the Volkswagen) started running low on gas, and every exit we took led to ghost towns with tumbleweeds rolling in the wind. No seriously, the first exit we took, the gas station looked like it’d been abandoned for years and there was brush and dirt just blowing in the breeze. The next stop was the same thing. It wasn’t until exit number three that we made human contact at a mom-and-pop garage.

Thankfully, they did not kill us as we suspected they might, and instead laughed and said, “Yeah, you’re not gonna find a working gas station for a while. Keep driving.” How was that possible near a mechanic’s garage? Columbus would just have to keep livin’ on a prayer until we reached the city.

We made it. Just barely, but we made it. Filled up and headed to the hotel where surprise, there’s a parking fee for the garage they hadn’t told us about when I’d first booked the hotel. Shout out to my mom for taking the extra charge. Other than that, I gotta admit, I don’t really remember the hotel. I just remember walking around Atlanta.

I don’t remember when we arrived, but while the city itself felt alive, there were hardly any passersby on the streets. It was like my friends and I were the only living souls left amid the breathing concrete and edifices. I’d never pictured Atlanta, GA being so devoid of people at any given time. It was a major city, wasn’t it? Shouldn’t it have been like NYC or Miami, with citizens bustling around at every goddamn hour of the day?

Eventually, my friends and I parted ways, leaving me behind to wait with the cattle call for auditions while they ventured into the city to explore. I got a text message saying, “We found Atlanta. Everyone’s at the aquarium lol.” Who knew the Atlanta Aquarium required reservations beforehand?

Fast forward through the auditions, because I spent the whole day there, mostly sitting and practicing and panicking, until it was all over and I was free to join my friends again. I believe the name of the restaurant we went to was called Pitty Pat’s Porch. The pecan pie is highly recommended. That damn dessert still haunts my dreams. Also, I had collared greens for the first time that night, and they were delicious.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More food adventures were had the next day as we lunched at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, and oh, damn, were those ribs social media worthy. Atlanta was good for food. And for laughs, as we arrived in the Five Points neighborhood and Char’Lee had to get out of the driver’s seat to let me parallel park. Apparently I was the only one there who had some experience with that maneuver (Hialeah training, thank you!).

For the hipster and bohemian at heart, I say visiting Five Points is the way to go. Not so much my cup of tea, but the others enjoyed it a lot. Crazy jewelry purchases were made. Thrift shops were perused (because who goes to a place like Five Points and doesn’t go thrift shopping?). Record stores ogled. Yep, the perfect place for a writer to set up shop and start working on her observation skills.

Our final day in Georgia saw us through a tour of the Martin Luther King, Jr. community. It’s still surreal to me to walk down paths as an every day citizen in neighborhoods where such historical figures once walked themselves, and I wonder if they thought they were ordinary as well.

No, Thank You. Not Today, Sir

I went to a poetry workshop a couple of months ago for cabaret poetry. It was a new and fun experience. Here’s the work that resulted from that workshop with pictures of me reading.

You saw me sitting from across the bar through the smoky curtain of your Cuban cigar.
“Mami, pero you’re too pretty to be alone,” you slur. To which I smile and respond, “No, thank you, not today sir.”
Glass slams on the table. “Pero, mami, you haven’t even heard me out.”
Your sweaty brow furrows and lips start to pout.
I lean away for safety, just to be sure. Again, “No, thank you. Not today, sir.”
Your hand comes down on my shoulder that’s bare. “C’mon, mami. Why don’t you play fair?”
I push your hand off, muscles tensed, lips pursed. Through gritted teeth say, “No, thank you. Not today, sir.”

I get up walk past clinking glasses and you grab my wrist. I force you off
with an unexpected twist. Slack-jawed and dumb, you begin to sputter.
I hold myself tall and shout, “No, thank you. Not today, sir!”

Childhood Pranks —

Reblogged from The Drabble. I couldn’t not share this one. Too funny.

By The Urban Spaceman Two weeks into summer break and bored out of their minds, Tommy and D.J. rode their bikes two miles to the abandoned church in the countryside. They spent three days chiselling the image of a giant penis into an outer wall, and the rest of the summer giggling over their artistic […]

via Childhood Pranks —

Burned Book

When I was about 13-years-old my dad’s old Toyota caught fire. I’ve told this story a hundred times, for different reasons and in different ways. This time though, it’s all about a book. Yes, a book of course, as this is a books and reading and writing blog. See, the day this event occurred, I’d brought my favorite copy of Calvin & Hobbes: Something Under the Bed is Drooling with me.

It was an old copy that I’d dug out of piles of junk my parents had collected over the years, and it smelled like moldy paper. I loved it. I read it over and over again, especially because when I rediscovered it my dad had gotten really excited and said, “Hey, I remember that! I loved that comic. It was my favorite.” It became my favorite, too.

The day the car caught fire, I ran out of the vehicle, not thinking about anything other than not getting burnt to a crisp. My dad, brother and I stood to the side of the highway watching the fire build from the bottom, slowly, and heard the glass pop as the windows got blown out. That’s when I gasped and uttered in a small voice, “My book.”

My brother Daryl heard me, and he tried to run back to the car to grab it from the backseat, but my dad pulled him back. See, he’d just run back a few seconds before to grab his CD case (music is no joke in my family). He said, “C’mon I’ve still got time. I can get her book.” My dad stood firm, saying it wasn’t worth the risk and that he shouldn’t have run back the first time for the CDs.

I nodded in agreement with my dad. No object could be worth risking your life to a fire. An explosion, really, that could happen at any moment. I still swallowed down the lump in my throat, though. My dad’s old copy of Calvin & Hobbes was forever lost to ash, and there was no replacing it. Though my brother did offer to buy me another Calvin & Hobbes book for Christmas (and he kept that promise).

I think Daryl knew what the book meant to me. He never quite shared my attachment to books, but he knew that they were important to me. And even though I’m sad I lost that old original copy, I always remember how my big brother was willing to run into a burning car to grab a book for me. But truthfully, I wouldn’t trade my brother for any number of books. Not even for my old, original copy of Something Under the Bed is Drooling.

A Totally Biased Review of Anne With an E

Anne with an E – CBC / Netflix

I say biased because I grew up reading the books and absolutely loved them. I may have mentioned that before in previous posts, but in case you missed it, I LOVE Anne of Green Gables. I read the first book over 15 times, and I know this, because by the time I got to read number 15, I gave up keeping track of how many times I’d read it. So I think at this point, it’s safe to say I’ve read the book at least 50 times. I still plan on reading it again soon, especially after watching the new show.

I managed to watch all seven episodes in three days, which doesn’t sound impressive, but with a full-time job and grad school, seven episodes in three days is an accomplishment for me. I just liked the show that much and felt myself taken back to childhood, hearing the old familiar dialogue and looking forward to the iconic scenes. The show did not disappoint. Even though there were a few deviations from the book, it still remained true to most of the story and the spirit of the characters.

Amybeth McNulty is an exquisite Anne, I think. Her voice and eyes are so expressive when delivering her lines, which is exactly what Anne Shirley is all about. Also, in the scenes that bring to light the true horrors Anne has seen in her life (something I appreciated that’s different from the book), her performance is heart wrenching. I couldn’t help but tear up so many times for poor, dear Anne.

Geraldine James is exactly what I always pictured Marilla to be when I read the books. She does a magnificent job of changing from the completely stern authority figure to newly-made mother with a soft spot for her girl. She handles her role with grace and wit, making Marilla a lovely character.

I also love the portrayal of her relationship with Rachel Lynde. The two women have their differences, but truly it is like they are sisters with how well they know each other and feel comfortable with their banter. It’s especially refreshing in a society that tries to stifle women’s personalities.

The last thing I’m going to say about the show (last because otherwise I’ll just keep going on) is I adore how unashamedly feminist it is. The thing about media that takes on a feminist message is it often feels like if it overtly states it, it’s trying too hard or pushing an agenda. Watching Anne With an E, for the first time I questioned myself, “Why shouldn’t it be overt and pushed? Why should touting feminist ideals be subtle or hidden or gently suggested?” I just really appreciate how a childhood favorite grew up to resonate still with me as an adult.

Has anyone else watched Anne With an E on Netflix? What were your thoughts on the show? Let me know in the comments!